A gasp went through the crowd at Meridian Health’s annual meeting at Eagle Oaks Golf and Country Club in Farmingdale Wednesday when it was announced that not only had Joan and Robert Rechnitz, founders of the Two River Theater Company, donated $5 million to help launch a new integrative medicine initiative – but an anonymous donor had also stepped up to match it with an additional $5 million.
With $10 million in total, a substantial gift in any year, for any program, Meridian would finally be able to follow through on years of planning and research to kick off its new integrative approach to healthcare, to be housed at Meridian Health Village at Jackson. The plan is that one day the model will be replicated in Red Bank and other areas.
Integrative medicine, also sometimes referred to as holistic medicine, is an approach that uses various therapeutic options to achieve optimal health and healing. It involves a combination of conventional medicine and complementary alternative treatments.
“This is incredible, there just aren’t words” said Timothy J. Hogan, Meridian’s regional hospital president on Thursday, about Meridian’s “euphoria” and gratitude for the large gifts.
“We’ve been planning for a long time about how we would change the delivery of healthcare,” said Hogan. A Meridian team had visited programs around the country to gather ideas, he said. “With the changes that have occurred in healthcare reform, the emphasis will be on keeping people out of the hospital, having the patient as an active participant in their own healthcare.”
With the donations, Meridian envisions hiring a medical director to oversee physician training that extends beyond conventional medicine, by integrating alternative medicines and treatments, such as nutrition counseling, biofeedback, homeopathy/herbal medicine and medical acupuncture, at the 150,000 square-foot healthcare complex, accessible from Interstate 195.
Meridian will also look to hire an administrator and a team of “nurse navigators” who will go out into the community to do health assessments, screenings, baseline surveys as well as offer education and prevention practices. There will be emphasis on what Meridian calls the four pillars of wellness; nutrition, physical fitness, stress reduction and sleep.
Joseph Stampe, president of Meridian Health Affiliated Foundations, said that the gifts of the Rechnitzes and the anonymous donor were “overwhelming” in their generosity.
He called the donors “forward thinking” philanthropists with leadership and vision.
“Putting people on the path to wellness, that’s what’s so inspiring,” said Stampe. “I really believe Meridian is the best place to do this, because of our continuum of care. This is a capstone on how healthcare will be practiced in the future,” he said.
– By Christina Johnson
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